Decision-making is fundamental to what we do. Simple decisions, complex decisions, we make decisions every day. In our personal lives. At work. Everywhere.
Most of the time, people approach decisions in a linear way – ‘we can either do A or we can do B’ – sometimes, however, this approach can be constraining. This is where the principle of ‘AND’ is increasing in popularity and importance.
AND Thinking, as I like to call it, is not new. There has been much research and practical application of its genius already. Based on the principles of Polarity thinking, I first came across it in Jim Collins book Built to Last www.jimcollins.com. Then, in more detail in Barry Johnson’s 2014 book Polarity Management – www.athenaonline.com/faculty/barry-johnson.
Since first coming across it, I have found myself using AND Thinking every day – either in making my own choices or helping organisations define theirs.
AND Thinking shifts you away from the constraining perspective of right or wrong choices – towards an adaptive, experimental and learning approach, filled with possibilities and all defined by that simple word ‘And’.
It identifies two interrelated alternatives available to you and helps you establish the positives and negatives of both. It also points to the outcomes they deliver and the way to identify and manage them.
It means you can, for example:
- Give Freedom and Hold Responsible
- Respect Tradition and Enjoy Innovation
- Provide Direction and Invite Participation
The complexities and ever-changing environment for organisations and individuals means that ‘right/wrong’ or ‘either/or’ decisions have the potential to be constraining or too quickly become irrelevant.
In addition, many organisation cultures and structures are simply not agile enough to change direction or adapt to a shifting context effectively. This means that the organisation, team or individual, can sometimes end up implementing plans and actions that will not deliver the intended, or hoped for, outcomes.
Approaching decision-making from the perspective of AND Thinking allows you to expect and plan to shift to different approaches as the context evolves and shifts.
It means you are not limited to one path and can maintain a dynamic equilibrium. The AND Thinking approach applies to the organisation, the team and the individual.
How to apply it to Culture Change
AND Thinking comes to life in how we work with individual clients and organisations that are looking at how they can improve or shift their culture. Often there is heated debate about the right way to organise, structure or reward. Should the focus be on the individual’s performance and objectives, or should it be the collective team performance and outcomes?
In fact, you need both … AND Thinking.
If you focus on rewarding the individual to the neglect of the team, suddenly no one is collaborating. If you swing too far toward teamwork and team outcomes, individuals aren’t motivated to go beyond their assigned roles, responsibilities and goals.
The trick is to align the individual and team outcomes and goals, to ensure team success drives individual success.